European parliament backs changes to copyright rules

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MEPs will vote on whether to introduce measures to drastically curb tech giants' power over content online. Credit REUTERS

Article 11, dubbed by opponents as a "link tax", would require online platforms like Google News to pay news organisations for the articles they link to.

Julia Reda, an Internet activist and German member of European Parliament, said the decision was "a severe blow to the free and open Internet" and that the parliament was putting "corporate profits over freedom of speech".

The scope of Article 13 has been narrowed to platforms that host "significant" amounts of content and "promote" them as well, while the revised Article 11 removes copyright constraints on article links and "individual words" words describing them.

The European Parliament has changed its collective mind and chosen Paul McCartney over Tim Berners-Lee - and the consequences for big tech and the future of the open internet could be enormous.

This was and continues to be the most controversial proposal in the Directive, which is created to address the "value gap" between sums made by content sharing platforms compared to artists and creatives whose works are exploited on those platforms.

The Commission stands ready to start working with the European Parliament and the Council of the EU, so that the directive can be approved as soon as possible, ideally by the end of 2018.

Major tech companies have lobbied heavily against the proposal.

Catastrophic Article 11 vote: The European Parliament just endorsed a #linktax that would make using the title of a news article in a link to it require a license. The levy was shown to support only larger newspapers, while local publications failed to benefit. "A lot of these kids now are being discovered from these platforms, from doing other people's material, so it's very important now we understand that".

"Far from advancing the European digital economy through the Digital Single Market, the proposals adopted by the European Parliament will lead to significant additional burdens on companies seeking to serve the European market", he said.

One Dutch MEP who had proposed adjustments to the controversial articles was disappointed with the Strasbourg vote. "This is a disastrous result for the protection of our fundamental rights, ordinary internet users and Europe's future in the field of artificial intelligence". Restrictions on text and data mining, as foreseen in article 3, could, they say, hamper the ability of machines to learn.

Musical artists have said article 13 could allow them to properly negotiate royalties, as the music industry has long said YouTube pays much less for music videos than what they actually cost. Run by a group called "save the internet", this deal doesn't seem to be quite done yet.

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